THEY CAST OUT MANY DEMONS, AND ANOINTED WITH OIL MANY THAT WERE SICK AND HEALED THEM
(A biblical refection on THE 15th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – July 15, 2018)
Gospel Reading: Mark 6:7-13
First Reading: Amos 7:12-15; Psalms: Psalm 85:9-14; Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
The Scripture Text
And He called to Him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. And He said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. (Mark 6:7-13 RSV)
Cities were far apart and a person going from one city to the next journeyed over long stretches of desert roads that were not heavily travelled. This meant that anyone foolish enough to embark on a journey by himself was an easy prey for the many gangs waiting in ambush to rob and beat those who came along.
There was also a Jewish law which said a judge could not find an accused person guilty if there was only one witness to the alleged offense. The purpose of this law was to protect an innocent person from a neighbor or acquaintance who might make up a story for revenge or blackmail. Therefore, under no circumstances could a judge consider the testimony of only one person sufficient.
The Jews applied the above mentioned law not only in cases involving someone’s guilt or innocence, but also in other everyday matters as well. If Jesus had sent out the apostles individually to testify that the reign of God was indeed here, they would have covered twice as many cities but the people who heard them could have challenged their testimony because the required second witness would not have been present. They would have questioned if what the apostles were saying was fact or fiction. By going out in pairs, the apostles verified each other’s testimony and those who heard would have accepted it as the truth.
The Gospel story ends with the apostles expelling demons and anointing the sick with oil. Ancient people used oil as a symbol of healing and strength. Athletes rubbed it all over their bodies before competing in sporting events and doctors prescribed it for a variety of illnesses. Today, many Christian denominations continue to use blessed oil for sacraments and prayer. This oil is symbolic of the spiritual strength and the spiritual healing Jesus gives us through the Christian community in our time of need.
For personal reflection: Jesus told the apostles not to stay where they were not welcome. Do those who visit your church feel welcome by your parish community? How can you make them feel more at home?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 186-187.)
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray that You will continue to call Your disciples/followers of today to preach the Gospel and for those whom You call, that they will respond wholeheartedly. We thank You, Jesus, for letting each and every one of us to share in some way in the works of Your mission. Amen.
Jakarta, 14 July 2018
A Christian Pilgrim